The Chicago Bulls organization appears to be at a crossroads. The team is coming off a disappointing season where they missed the playoffs amidst injuries and apparent locker room dysfunction under new head coach Fred Hoiberg
Frontcourt stalwart Joakim Noah appears to be on his way out the door. Pau Gasol seems likely to follow. The front office is doing everything they can to move the last year of Derrick Rose's contract, and might even trade his backcourt mate, Jimmy Butler.
While that last move seems unlikely to happen for now, the Bulls roster is in flux regardless. If Rose is traded and Noah and Gasol leave, the team would still have 10 players under contract, but the names don't exactly scream "contention."
Aside from Butler, the Bulls would feature the likes of: Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Mike Dunleavy, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, Bobby Portis, Justin Holiday, and the non-guaranteed contracts of Cameron Bairstow and Cristiano Felicio. While some of those could end up as solid players, the odds would definitely be against them to make the playoffs.
All of this has led the Bulls to an organizational inflection point. Should the team try to bring in more players to compete immediately? Or, should they attempt to tear things down and rebuild?
With no outgoing pick obligations other than sending their 2016 second rounder to the Portland Trail Blazers, the team would seem to be well positioned for the latter option, especially with a top-10 protected first rounder coming in from the Sacramento Kings next season.
If the Bulls do go the rebuilding route, one of the D-League's newest teams would suddenly become one of it's most desirable destinations, if Chicago decides to make good use of it.
The Windy City Bulls, Chicago's brand new D-League affiliate, will kick off play this November. If the Bulls elect to have a true 1-to-1 affiliation with their new minor-league club, they could implement a scaled down version of Hoiberg's systems in order to familiarize players with it while also getting a close look at whether or not prospects they might call-up could fit with the parent team.
It's unknown as of right now who will coach the team, but organizations that have tried this style of 1-to-1 affiliation have seen great benefit from it. This past season, second-round pick Josh Richardson credited his time with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Miami Heat's D-League affiliate, to his breakout debut that included Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors in March. The Heat run the Skyforce as a true extension of their organization, which allows their call-ups a better chance of success than a random player being brought in on a 10-day contract who has to learn all-new terminology and a different style of play.
Where the Bulls could be a more appealing situation, at least on the players' side, is the state of their parent club. If the Bulls are rebuilding, then their D-League team would theoretically offer players a better chance to get called up as the team cycles through talent trying to find keepers for their roster moving forward.
This could allow the Bulls to get more desirable undrafted free agents for their summer league and training camp teams, because these undrafted players would know that if they didn't make the roster immediately, they would get an opportunity to still be in the Bulls organization as they play for the NBADL affiliate.
The Bulls still have a long way to go before such a situation becomes a reality. Their veterans haven't officially left yet, and the front office still has to hire coaches and trainers to run the day-to-day operation for their D-League club. If they do decide to rebuild, however, the opportunity is there to paint one of the best situations in the D-League onto the blank slate that is Windy City.